Presented by Dr. Dennis K. Crawford

Several years ago Dr. Emmanuel Cheraskin conducted a comprehensive study involving over 50,000 people. Using extensive questioning he was able to identify correlations between diet (and other habits) and health. This study went a long way to better our understanding of risk factors for particular ailments. For example, people who had hemorrhoids the main correlation diet wise was coffee drinking. Additionally, people who experienced ill health in general shared the habit of consuming too many refined carbohydrates. People who enjoyed excellent health shared the practice of regular exercise as a common theme. EXERCISE WAS THE NUMBER ONE FACTOR FOR GOOD HEALTH.

Diet, of course, is also very important. You can’t out exercise a bad diet, but generally speaking people who exercise are health conscious so they pay attention to what they eat. A good diet without exercise however, is not going to achieve the same health outcome as combining the two will. Why? The body thrives on exercise and movement. When those factors are missing, the body breaks down. Most likely it won’t break down as fast if the diet is good, but diet isn’t a substitute for movement. If you have ever had the misfortune to be bedridden for just a week, you know how weak you become in that short of time.

Exercise decreases the risk of early death. Some of the other benefits include enhanced moods, increased cognition, blood sugar regulation, boosting immunity, decreased cardiovascular risk, improved sleep, weight management, and overall better quality of life. Exercise decreases cancer risk and has been shown to be the best medicine for depression. It keeps telomeres long (shortening is related to aging) and increases the number of mitochondria in our cells. This is where energy is produced within our cells, so the more of them you have the more energy you have. Fatigue is a major complaint of people today. Exercise may be the solution. Many doctors feel fatigue actually starts in the brain. If that is true exercise may still be helpful because it increases circulation to the brain, and increases Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor, a necessary ingredient for a healthy brain.

There are many types of exercise and since they all have different benefits, most would benefit from a combination of types. Two things to evaluate are what are your goals and where are you now as related to fitness? If I’m advising someone who has never exercised, anything they do for movement is a good thing. Usually I would encourage them to walk at a slow pace to begin with for several minutes. Over time, increase the pace and length of time walking. What if someone can’t walk for whatever reason? There’s always an option. Can they cycle or bounce on a mini trampoline? I once saw a senior doing laps using a walker. He wasn’t going to let a little handicap prevent him from exercising.

Walking is considered an aerobic exercise as is cycling, Stairmaster, treadmill, etc. Everyone could benefit from aerobic exercise and it can be easier than you might think. If one’s goal is better cardiovascular fitness, then it is important to monitor the pulse. A simple, effective plan is to get the heart rate to 180 minus your age and keep it there for 10 minutes several times a week.

Strength training is not considered aerobic but it is possible to get some aerobic benefits. Not resting long between sets is one way to achieve that. Years ago I talked to someone who worked out with the legendary Jack LaLanne. He said Jack would literally run through a two hour workout. He didn’t rest at all between sets and he had tremendous energy and endurance. Anybody remember his birthday stunts like swimming from Alcatraz to San Francisco pulling seven boats with people in them with his teeth?

Strength training can strengthen bones, increase circulation, bring down blood pressure, etc. It’s important to focus on proper form. For shorter but effective training, the super slow method is great. Only one set is done and only three or four repetitions. The exercise is done to the count of ten in both contraction and extension. Sounds easy? I assure you it is a dynamite workout.

There are many other types of exercises like Interval Training, Yoga, Tai Chi, body weight exercises, Pilates and physical therapy, etc. They all have their place but again, what is your individual goal? Do you have back pain? You can tailor your program to help with that. (Foundation exercises are very good). Does your balance need improvement? (Tai Chi is excellent for balance). My suggestion would be to utilize different ones, but prioritize the aerobic fitness. Adding some strength training would be good and you do not have to join a gym. Seniors that want to improve their bone density can do so with some strength training (along with optimizing their Vitamin D levels and taking a high quality calcium). There are some excellent YouTube videos to guide you. Body weight exercises are great for conditioning as well. You can do them at home and one can get good aerobic exercise at the same time as some strength benefits.

Exercising does not have to be torture. Make it enjoyable. Don’t overdo it, especially in the beginning. If something hurts to do, do not push through pain. Eliminate the movements that hurt an area and seek competent help to treat that problem. Discomfort is a major reason people quit exercising. Do not let that be you. Be consistent and make it fun. Remember, there is always an option if you have a limitation. The main thing is to move what you can. Your body and mind will thank you by rewarding you with a much improved quality of life.